• Brian L. Barefield

WHERE THE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD Texans face the Colts to start Wild-Card Weekend in the NFL

Updated: Jan 6, 2019

Have you ever heard the saying, “Where the rubber meets the road?” It is considered the moment of truth. Imagine having a project that you have been working on for months and today is the day you have to present it. All of your efforts and preparation leads you to that one moment where you must display everything you have worked so hard on. As we approach the beginning of NFL playoff weekend, The Houston Texans knows exactly what that cliché means and will have to prove it against the Indianapolis Colts.


There aren’t too many times that divisional foes get a chance to play for a third time in a season, and especially in the first round of the playoffs. This will be the first meeting in the postseason for the two teams from the AFC South with the Texans winning the first game 37-34(OT) in Indianapolis to start a string of 9 consecutive wins only to have the Colts end that streak in Houston defeating the Texans by a score of 24-21.

These are the five things I think needs to happen in order for the Texans to advance to the second round of the playoffs.

CLOSE THE HILTON – Colts WR T.Y. Hilton has been a huge problem for the Texans. The last game he played in Houston a Week 14 victory for the Colts, he caught nine passes for 199 yards. The receiving yards total was the second-highest of his career and most since 2014 (223 yards) which ironically came against Houston at NRG stadium. To say that the major focus on defense is to stop T. Y. Hilton is an understatement. He must be harassed early and often if the Texans want to be successful by taking away Colts QB Andrew Luck’s favorite target and prevent Hilton from reiterating his statement made after the last game in Houston that NRG stadium was his “Second home.” Since Week 9, Hilton has led the NFL in receiving yards (917) and is the only player to average over a 100 yards per game (105.7) according to the Colts media guide.

Defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel will make sure that his players know exactly where T.Y. is lined up on every play to prevent him from having another stellar game in the Texans home stadium.

“Well, one of the things we have to do is we have to focus more on the job that we have to do the way we want it done to prevent him from having the opportunity to make some of the plays he makes. But he is a good football player, so he’s is going to make some plays. We have to hold those plays down and not let him have too many of them,” Crennel told reporters during his weekly press conference.

NO LUCK – Hilton isn’t the only Colts player who has had success against the Texans this season. Houston native (Stratford High School) QB Andrew Luck has had a great season (4,593 yards passing, 39 touchdowns) after missing the previous two recovering from a shoulder injury. He has also had two of his best five games in his career against the Texans in 2018 throwing for an average 431.5 yards a game. In order for Houston to win today they have to apply pressure on him and force turnovers. Luck had 15 interceptions this past season and in Week 17 against the Titans, threw a pick-six on his own side of the field. He has also come up short in post season play by throwing more interceptions (12) than touchdowns (9).

“I think he’s a great quarterback, but I think if he struggles with anything, I think it’s when guys are in his face. I think he can make some poor decisions, but he’s a great quarterback, he’s a great talent. It’s going to be a great challenge for us,” said Texans S Tyrann Mathieu who will be making his third playoff appearance.

LET WATSON STICK HIS TONGUE OUT – Those familiar with sports knows that one of the best athletes of all time is former NBA great, Michael Jordan. He has been hailed by many as the best player to ever play the game and the one thing that defined him outside of his freakish athletic ability was his tongue hanging out of his mouth as he destroyed his opponents. Clemson University’s head football coach, Dabo Swinney coached current Texans QB Deshaun Watson in college and had some very strong words before the 2017 NFL Draft.

“I’m just telling you. They pass on Deshaun Watson, they’re passing on Michael Jordan,” said Swinney.

The Texans heard those words loud and clear and traded up to get Watson and it has paid off huge dividends. In his 23 starts in the NFL he has thrown for 5,864 yards and 45 passing touchdowns. Tack on 820 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns and you have everything you need at the QB position. Just like Luck, the Texans QB is coming back from an injury that shortened his rookie season and limited him to just six games during his rookie campaign and he bounced back in true superstar fashion by having a stellar 2018 regular season. Watson had 4,165 passing yards, 26 passing touchdowns to go along with 551 yards rushing and 5 rushing touchdowns.

Those are very impressive numbers, especially when you add in that from Weeks 11-17 he threw 207 consecutive passes without an interception and only had 9 for the season. That is the kind of things you look for in the leader of your team and definitely attributes you want to have going into your first ever NFL postseason game.

“I know with Deshaun, he’s been through so many things in his life that the football field, like I’ve said to you before, is kind of like a sanctuary for him. He loves it. He loves those moments. Some guys are born with it. Some guys, they attain it over time meaning they learn their system, they go through experiences and they get better and better,” Head coach Bill O’Brien said as he heaped praises on his signal caller.

DRAW THE LINE – Everything for the Texans offense starts and stops with the offensive line who has played well in spurts. Their strength is run blocking and it has shown through RB Lamar Miller’s production. In 14 starts he rushed for 973 yards, 5 touchdowns and went for over a 100-or-more rushing yards in four games this season. Where the line falls short is in pass protection. Watson was sacked 62 times this season which is the most in the NFL since 2006 when Detroit Lions QB Jon Kitna was sacked 63 times. The Colts will apply a lot of pressure led by rookie All-Pro LB Darius Leonard who had 163 tackles this season which led the league. It will be up to the offensive line to keep him and the rest of the Colts defense away from Watson.

INCREASE (WATT)AGE – Houston’s defense starts and stops with 2018 All-Pro DE J.J. Watt. If you ever need an example of what resiliency is. Look no further than number 99. Watt suffered a season ending injury last year and has bounced back like he was never hurt. With 61 tackles and an AFC- leading 16.0 sacks this season, the Colts defensive lineman will have their hands full all day. That will open up the other side for his teammate Jadeveon Clowney who was named AFC-Defensive Player of the Week after the Texans defeated the Colts in Week 4. Although the Colts have only given up 16 sacks during the regular season, six of those have come from the Texans with Watt recording three in the two meetings. It will be interesting to see how they game plan for a hyped-up tandem in Clowney and Watt.

“When we’re feeling good and feeling great, I think it’s hard,” Clowney said after being asked how difficult it is to deal with him and J.J.

My Prediction: Texans 24 – Colts 13

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